Isner Bulldogs It To The Third

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY- Although John Isner is keeping a watchful eye on the other matchups today after his second round win over fellow American Robbie Ginepri, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, his biggest concern is tomorrow’s big game.

It’s when his beloved Georgia Bulldogs take on Boise State.

“I’m just getting mentally prepared for that,” he said.  “I don’t watch too much tennis.”

He doesn’t need to keep watching after his strong performance on Armstrong today. The Georgia native has been on top of his game this year. This win will be his seventh in a row and that follows one that was what he thinks is an “eight or nine match” winning streak.

He took the Hall of Fame Tournament in Newport back in July and won in Winston Salem, just a few weeks ago to start his winning streak.

And what’s the secret of his recent success?

Why confidence, of course.

“It’s as high as it’s ever been,” he said. “You know, I don’t like to think too much about it, but, you know, I have won seven matches in a row now, and earlier this summer I won, I think, eight or nine matches in a row:  won Newport, made the finals of Atlanta.

“I’m just winning it a lot of matches and I’m very, very confident and I feel good.  I feel like I’m, you know, moving very well, you know, especially for myself.  I’m getting to balls and able to get a lot more balls back in play because I’m very comfortable out there.”

This is a different from the Isner we all have seen earlier this year, where he lost in French Open in the first round and Wimbledon in the second. He also had a disappointing loss in Chile during the Davis Cup.

“That was probably one of the biggest down points of my year so far, going down there and just not playing well and not really able to contribute to the team,” he said. “You know, I lost to a guy ranked pretty low in Davis Cup, and I just ‑‑ it all started once I got back to the States and started playing tournaments stateside.  Very comfortable over here.  It’s just, you know, once I won a few matches in a row ‑‑ at Newport I started ‑‑ you know, I knew my game was going in the right direction, because the first five months of the year frankly it was a disappointment.”

But the 26 year-old is now back and ready to continue on at the Open. Fortunately he has a the fifth set tie break here and there will be no repeat of his match last year at Wimbledon when he won a fifth set over Nicholas Mahut, 70-68, in a match that lasted 11 hours and five minutes.

“Every slam is different,” he said.  “To me, to be honest, I like the tiebreaker, because if it goes to a fifth set and it happens to go down to a tiebreaker I like my chances, especially with my serve.  You know, I beat Andy a couple years ago in a fifth set tiebreaker.  You know, I do like the system now.

“But, you know, I don’t think anything should change as far as the other tournaments go.  It’s just how the US Open does it.”

But that didn’t happen today – maybe later in the tournament. Right now, though, it doesn’t seem like he cares because his Bulldogs will take conter statge for him tomorrow.

And who is going to win?

“I’m partial to Georgia,” Isner predicted. “I think they’re virtually playing ‑‑ you know, they’re in their backyard playing in the Georgia Dome.  They’ll have the crowd support and it’s gonna be ‑‑ it’s a huge game to start the season, for sure.”

Spoken like a true Georgia alumni.

You Gotta Believe In Oudin

CBS veteran commentator Dick Enberg beckoned:

“Ooo! Oooo! Oudin,” following American Melanie Oudin’s second consecutive upset at Ashe- this time getting the better of former U.S. Open champion Maria Sharapova in a topsy turvy three-hour three setter that had plenty of drama.

The 17 year-old Atlanta, Georgia native showed maturity beyond her years rallying from a set down to pull out a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 win in front of a very supportive packed house. Not surprisingly, with Sharapova still struggling mightily with a new serve since her return from shoulder surgery, the match featured 16 breaks with each fiery competitor getting eight.

Unfortunately for the 22 year-old Russian star, she bent last dropping serve when a focused Oudin hit a return forehand winner smack on the line for a fifth straight break. Neither player could handle holding but this time, the gritty kid maintained her composure by getting more first serves in to serve it out. On match point, she went for an ace up the tee drawing a short Sharapova reply. With Ashe Stadium sensing the end, Oudin didn’t miss rifling a crosscourt forehand winner before dropping her racket in disbelief and screaming in delight as loud cheers followed.

Her opponent greeted her at the net and then came a nice postmatch interview with CBS’ Mary Joe Fernandez who also doubles as her Fed Cup coach. It was a great moment as she emotionally thanked everyone for “<em>cheering for her.</em>”

How could they not? This girl is very easy to root for because of the effort she puts in. Sure. She admitted to benefiting from a few of Sharapova’s nightmarish 21 double faults. But this was still a three-time slam winner who didn’t give up despite the dreadful serve. In the second set, Oudin led 5-1 before Maria made things more interesting forcing the youngster to courageously serve it out.
<blockquote>“<em>I’ve always been so competitive,</em>” Oudin said. “<em>I go out there and fight as hard as I can. I have ‘Believe’ on my shoes. That’s what I did today. I ended up winning and I’m just so happy.</em>“</blockquote>
It was even more unpredictable in the final set where Oudin was so close to a double break lead for 4-1 but a determined Sharapova saved every break point holding before using an injury timeout to treat her right forearm. The tactic worked as her younger opponent slowed down getting broken to level at three all. But every time you thought the more experienced champ had the momentum, her inconsistent serve let her down. When she wasn’t tossing in doubles, it was Oudin who was outhitting her from the baseline. No small feat given how much power Sharapova can generate.

A true testament to Oudin’s will and also her footspeed which was evident all match with some incredible defense played even producing many of her 22 winners. She converted eight of 26 break chances to Sharapova’s eight for 14. But in the end, the emerging American star held her nerves closing out a great champion.

Indeed, it was well earned as was her comeback win over another Russian, No.4 seed Elena Dementieva a round prior. And so, Oudin moves onto a Round of 16 match against one more Russian, No.13 Nadia Petrova, who easily dispatched Jie Zheng 6-4, 6-1.

Can she keep it going? Oudin’s part of the section includes former Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and 19 year-old No.9 seed Caroline Wozniacki. But first, she’ll have to get past Petrova.

It’s hard not to get excited. There’s so much fight in her. Even though she missed earlier chances to finish off Sharapova earlier, Oudin never got down instead continuing to be positive.

Amazing stuff from the 5-6 girl who won’t turn 18 until later this month. She might be short in stature but not in heart.

“I just kept fighting as hard as I could, tried as hard as I could,” she said. “I just can’t even believe it.”

Oudin Shocks Dementieva In Three Sets

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It was a tough night for Melanie Oudin, as she lost the nightcap of her doubleheader. The 17 year-old teamed with Japan’s Ayumi Morita and lost a straight set loss to the Spanish doubles team of Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, 2-6, 1-6.

But you can forgive the Georgia native as she won the match of her life earlier in the day, defeating No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva in three sets, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

“During the match I had confidence, and, I mean, I was right there with her the entire time, said Oudin, who is following up a fourth round performance at Wimbledon. “I didn’t think that she wasn’t blowing me off the court. She wasn’t hitting winners left and right on me. We had long points. I was right there with her.

“I knew if I could play well and keep being aggressive and staying in there that I could do it.”

Describing her play as fearless, the young American went right after her Russian counterpart. She held her own in the first set and then dominated the final two, putting Dementieva on her heels as she went right after her opponent.

And she was playing hurt. With her left thigh wrapped, nursing a strained muscle, which required attention from the trainers in the third. Yet, the young girl was able to play through the pain for her biggest win of her life.

“I strained my IT band a little bit, and it was getting better,” she said. “I think today though, kind of everything that was going on, the whole – first time playing on Arthur Ashe, I was beating No. 4 in the world, about to beat her. I think that it just kind of started cramping a little bit. I should have had the whole thing taped.

“Just a little bit of everything. A lot of things were going through my mind, so I think a lot of things went into it. But I think it will be fine for my next match.”

Everything has been going fine for Oudin this year. Although she never moved past the second round in any tounaments other than the two Grand Slams she played, she surprised a number of people in London by defeating Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon before she set foot in Queens.

Now, though more is expected from her. She has been called the third best American woman behind the Williams sisters and is an up and coming star in the WTA circuit.

“I think that it’s really cool to be called the third best American behind the Williams sisters,” she said. “That’s just incredible since I’ve watched them since I was a little girl. They’ve been like my idols. I’m really proud of that to be the third best American.”

And Oudin really believes in herself. In fact, she wrote “Believe” on her sneakers during her match, representing her commitment to the sport.

“For me, it’s all about that,” Oudin said. “It’s believing that I can beat these girls and hang there with them. If I didn’t have that, then there’s no way I would have been able to win today.

“Because believing like in myself and my shots and playing within myself today, that’s how I won is knowing I believe that I could do it.”

Oudin will have her work cut out for her on Saturday as she plays Maria Sharapova who won in straight sets over 17 year-old New Jersey native Christina McHale, 6-2, 6-1.